Whenever there's a potluck supper at Churchville Presbyterian Church, you can be certain that Paul and Emily Hines will bring a batch of their homemade chili -- buffalo chili, that is.
Mr. and Mrs. Hines raise a small herd of buffalo on the family's 60-acre Cedarvale Farm off of Route 136 in Churchville.
It is the only buffalo farm in Harford County and one of just a few in the state.
"Buffalo meat is health food," said Mr. Hines, 65, who enjoys high-protein, low-cholesterol buffalo tacos, stew and meatloaf. "There's a big demand for the meat."
The demand may be high and the prices good -- from $4 per pound for ground meat, to $14 per pound for the T-bone and porterhouse steaks that he sells privately. But with a herd that numbers only 14, Mr. Hines' supply of meat for sale is limited.
"I keep the herd for education, primarily," Mr. Hines said. "I enjoy sharing what I know. And I feel that I am preserving some of our American heritage."
Mr. Hines and his wife share a fascination with buffalo -- the common name for the animal properly known as the American bison -- that far outweighs the couple's business interests.
The skull of their first bull, "Big Daddy," hangs from a post outside their 18th-century farmhouse. There's another skull by the front door with a wren's nest built into the eye socket.
There are buffalo magnets on the refrigerator door, a buffalo pinata, buffalo magazines, buffalo puzzles, buffalo paintings, buffalo clocks, buffalo photographs, buffalo recipe books and a veritable herd of 65 buffalo knickknacks in a curio cabinet.
There are even fishing flies one of his sons tied with buffalo wool.
"We have more inanimate buffalo than animate," said Mr. Hines, a former Army officer who retired from the Postal Service as a clerk-carrier in 1988.
Every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., they open the farm to the public. School groups come for weekday tours, especially in the fall. The cost of admission? Apples and stale bread.
"The buffalo think it's candy," said Mr. Hines, who has three buffalo calves, which weigh about 40 pounds each. The treats -- which supplement a diet of grass and hay -- have helped him to train the herd to come in from the fields when he calls so that visitors can get a closer look.
As apples and bread are tossed to them through a sturdy, 5-foot-high wire fence, the buffalo push and grunt and hungrily gobble the food.
"You can feed them through the fence, but don't try to touch them, " warned Mr. Hines, adding that when he's in the pasture, he won't get any closer to the herd than 100 feet. "They may seem docile, but they're unpredictable. There's no such thing as a tame buffalo."
His 2,300-pound bull, Sunny, gets most of the treats, intimidating the smaller cows, which weigh perhaps 1,400 pounds.
Sunny has humped shoulders, bulging eyes, a huge snout and curled horns that he uses to forage for food, fight and loosen the ground for a dirt bath.
The bison is a completely different animal from the more domesticated water buffalo that lives in India and Africa, Mr. Hines said. The misnomer originally came about as Europeans used the term "boeuf," or beef, to refer to the animals. Over time, the word buffalo evolved, Mr. Hines said.
Mr. Hines entertains visitors with history, memorabilia and jokes, all having to do with buffalo.
He shares an antique buffalo robe made from a hide sewn to a blanket. He talks about a little girl whose mitten was eaten while she was feeding one of his buffalo.
"They are so majestic and so much a part of our heritage," Mr. Hines said. "Buffaloes and eagles, I can never get enough of them."
That interest spills over into his spare time. As former director and current member of the National Bison Association, based in Denver, Mr. Hines plans two vacations with his wife each year -- always to bison conferences.